Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Sombrero Man returns to Pittsburgh for one more day

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No one knows for sure what happened to Pittsburgh icon Sombrero Man, but his portrait, at least, will be at the Modern Formations gallery through tomorrow.

Paulette Poullet’s painting is based on a picture I took back in the day. She’s informed me that it has sold, which is exciting! Yinz check it aht n’at:

Artist Paulette Poullet and photographer Kurt Garrison explore some of the mysteries of Pittsburgh and beyond in a shared exhibit October 4-26 at ModernFormations Gallery in Garfield. Opening reception during the Unblurred gallery crawl on Oct. 4th from 7-10pm.

In her portion of the exhibit, Poullet, an Ignatz-nominated cartoonist and Garfield resident, will showcase paintings that highlight the theme ‘Our Disappearing City.’ “It’s a tribute to the things that attracted me to Pittsburgh that are vanishing every day,” says Poullet, who came to Pittsburgh from Puerto Rico in the 1990s and has made the city her home ever since.

Garrison’s portion of the exhibit is titled ‘Things Are Looking Up.’ The photos he’ll have on exhibit come from his travels both near and far and include an eclectic assortment of subjects such as London living, the Reykjavík skyline, Dublin waterways, Welsh castles-turned-bomb shelters, the redefining of art installations and ceilings in Parisian art galleries, as well as a few choice shots of the Civic Arena to keep the locals happy.

Admission to the exhibit is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through October during gallery hours – 7-9 p.m. Thursdays, 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays, and by appointment. The exhibit’s closing ceremony will be on Saturday, October 26. For more information about the exhibit, call ModernFormations at 412-362-0274.

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/205447316300001/

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Post-Silicon Computing

Could Pittsburgh be the nation’s next “Strontium Valley”? The University of Pittsburgh is the lead institution on a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) to bring a new kind of computer out of the lab and into the real world. The goal of the group, led by Jeremy Levy, a professor of physics and astronomy in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, is no less than transforming the way computing is done.

Jeremy Levy

The four-year grant, titled “Scalable Sensing, Storage, and Computation With a Rewritable Oxide Nanoelectronics Platform,” also involves researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University. The program aims to create new high-tech industries and jobs in the United States.

“The search for a new semiconductor device that will provide the United States with a leadership position in the global era of nanoelectronics relies on making discoveries at these kinds of advanced universities,” said Jeff Welser, director of the NRI for SRC.


From Etch-A-Sketch® to Tiny Transistors

Levy and his team have invented a tiny Etch-A-Sketch® that draws infinitesimally small “wires” on a surface, then erases them. The device works by switching an oxide crystal between insulating and conducting states. The interface between these two materials can be switched between an insulating and metallic state using a sharp conducting probe. Electronic circuits can be “written” and “erased” at scales approaching the distance between atoms (two nanometers). The device, less than four nanometers wide, enables photonic interaction with objects as small as single molecules or quantum dots.

This research grant explicitly addresses key scientific and technological challenges that, if overcome, could lead turn the “Etch-A-Sketch®” into something real and useful—from being just a toy in a science lab to a possible replacement for conventional electronics made from silicon devices.

Beyond being just plain cool, this device could be the basis of an entirely new kind of transistor.

More at Pitt Chronicle >

How the Milky Way Got Its Spiral

The signature spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy were likely formed by an epic collision between the Milky Way and the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy, according to a University of Pittsburgh researcher and his collaborators whose findings were published last week in the prestigious British journal Nature.

The results of supercomputer simulations by Christopher W. Purcell, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, and colleagues were reported in a paper titled “The Sagittarius Impact as an Architect of Spirality and Outer Rings in the Milky Way.”

This paper is the first to identify Sagittarius as the architect of spiral structure in our Milky Way: “It presents a new and somewhat unexpected way of thinking about why the galaxy we live in looks the way it does,” says Purcell. “Cosmologically speaking, it demonstrates the idea that relatively small impacts like this can have a dramatic impact on the structure of galaxies throughout the universe,” he adds.

This idea had been assumed theoretically, but never demonstrated.

More at Pitt Chronicle >

Electric Cycle Invention Gets Pitt Student Noticed by Entrepreneur Magazine

Note: Today’s the last day you can vote for Micah in the College Entrepreneur of the Year contest. Go to www.entrepreneur.com/e2011/vote/college and support electric vehicles, innovation, and Pittsburgh!

 

With a dream of revolutionizing personal urban transportation, a University of Pittsburgh undergraduate is in the running to be Entrepreneur Magazine‘s “College Entrepreneur of the Year.” Micah Toll, a senior mechanical engineering major in the University of PittsburghSwanson School of Engineering, is one of five finalists in the contest. The winner will be the focus of a feature article in the magazine’s January issue.

The mission of Toll’s company, Pulse Motors, is to build completely electric two-wheeled Personal Electronic Vehicles. The vehicles resemble bicycles but do not require pedaling.

“Our vehicles are designed to be the ideal solution for millions of commuters driving in and around urban centers,” says Toll in his contest video entry on the Entrepreneur Magazine Web site. “Instead of a single person commuting in a two-ton gas-guzzler, our vehicles allow drivers to zip effortlessly along using minimal energy and no fossil fuels while producing absolutely zero tailpipe emissions.”

Computer rendering of a 2011 PEVO, officially debuted by Pulse Motors Aug. 28 at Pitt's Student Activities Fair. (Courtesy of Pulse Motors)

A panel of judges selected the five finalists from among thousands of entries across the country. The selection of the ultimate winner of the College Entrepreneur of the Year now comes down to two components: the online voting process and voting by the panel of judges. The online voting points and panel voting points will be combined for each of the five finalists, and the winner will be the student who receives the highest total.

More at News from Pitt >

 

Working to Build Better Antipsychotic Drug by Treating Schizophrenia’s Cause

The classic symptoms of schizophrenia—paranoia, hallucinations, the inability to function socially—can be managed with antipsychotic drugs. But exactly how these drugs work has long been a mystery.

Now, researchers at Pitt have discovered that antipsychotic drugs work akin to a Rube Goldberg machine—that is, they suppress something that in turn suppresses the bad effects of schizophrenia, but not the exact cause itself. In a paper published in the Aug. 24 Journal of Neuroscience, they say that pinpointing what’s actually causing the problem could lead to better avenues of schizophrenia treatment that more directly and efficiently target the disease.

“In the past five years or so, we’ve really started to understand what may be going wrong with the schizophrenic brain,” says Anthony Grace, Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and professor of psychology in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychiatry in the Pitt School of Medicine, who is senior author of the paper.

Schizophrenia is made up of three different types of symptoms. Positive symptoms, which are added onto a “normal” personality, include hallucinations and delusions, such as hearing voices, thinking people are after you, or thinking you’re being targeted by aliens. Those are the classic symptoms of schizophrenia and the ones antipsychotic medications work on best. Grace says these are the symptoms most likely related to a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

The other two categories of symptoms are negative (what’s missing from the normal personality—the ability to interact socially or hold down a job; some emotional flattening) and cognitive (the ability to think linearly or concentrate on one thing at a time). These two really aren’t addressed well by antipsychotic drugs. “Blocking the dopamine system seems to fix classic hallucinations and delusions a whole lot better than it fixes the other problems,” says Grace.

Grace has been studying the role dopamine plays in the schizophrenic brain since 1978. It’s long been known that after several weeks of treatment with antipsychotic drugs, dopamine-producing neurons are inactivated. “It would suggest to us that in schizophrenia there is not too much dopamine, but rather the dopamine system is too responsive,” says Grace.

Therefore, by inactivating the neurons, this overresponsivity should be able to be treated. “If there were just too much dopamine in the brain, one would expect the biggest treatment effect would be at the beginning and then it would diminish,” Grace says.

More at Pitt Chronicle

Pitt Team Regrows Blood Vessels With a Potent Molecule

Ever since the Nobel Prize for nerve growth factor was awarded more than 30 years ago, researchers have been searching for ways to use growth factor clinically.

University of Pittsburgh Professor Yadong Wang has developed a minimally invasive method of delivering growth factor to regrow blood vessels. His research, which could be used to treat heart disease, the most common cause of death in the Western world, was published in the Aug. 1 issue of the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …

When the researchers injected their growth factor compound under the skin of mice, they saw something amazing: New blood vessels grew, and large ones, not just tiny capillaries. “We had structures that resembled arterioles—small arteries that lead to a network of capillaries,” says Wang.

Moreover, the structures stuck around. At least a month later, after only one injection of the growth factor complex, the new blood vessels were still there.

More at Pitt Chronicle

 

Floridiyinzer Part II: The Left Arm

Floridiyinzer Part II: The Left Arm

Jack works at the Pompano Beach Post Office. He’s from Homestead, PA, and worked at Kennywood in the 1970s. See his right arm tattoo here.

This tattoo represents his life story: from the cable cars and bridges of Pittsburgh to the fishing in Florida.

He’s about to go back to Homestead for the first time since 1982. I told him he might not recognize the place.